Over the past few seasons, the Toronto Maple Leafs have assembled a deep and talented prospect pool. In addition to several players who have already ‘made the jump’ to the big club. From Auston Matthews to John Tavares to Mitch Marner to William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly, there is certainly no shortage of all-world skill at the Leafs’ disposal. But what about their crop of youngsters who are either already on the 20-man roster, or players ‘on the cusp’ of the NHL? Without further ado, let’s dive in and examine Toronto’s prospects who should be considered untouchable.
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Matthew Knies, Left-Wing, Age 20
Matthew Knies out of the University of Minnesota gets the ball rolling as Toronto’s first untouchable prospect. Man, oh man, has this kid ever been turning heads at the collegiate level. For starters, the 2021-22 campaign saw the Phoenix, Arizona native suit up for Team USA at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, and the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China as a 19-year-old, in addition to skating in 33 games for the Golden Gophers. Not too shabby for a 19-year-old, wouldn’t you say?
As a player, Knies combines the unique skill set of size, power, and finesse. At 6-foot-three, 205 pounds, he’s strong on the puck, excellent in front of goal, and loves to score goals. His statistical output at Minnesota saw him score 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) to go along with an impressive plus-15 rating during the 2021-22 campaign. It sure looks as though the Maple Leafs hit the proverbial jackpot with this guy, folks.
Alex Steeves, Center, Age 22
Next up on our list is Alex Steeves, a power forward who has enjoyed an excellent season in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Born and raised in Bedford, New Hampshire, Steeves has burst onto the scene this year and has had Leafs management (and opponents) turning heads with his strong, consistent play. When it comes to his on-ice toolkit, Steeves checks a lot of boxes and is everything you want in a young forward. This season, in particular, has seen the 22-year-old combine impressive offensive wherewithal of skating ability, determination, grit, and finish. He loves to get in on the forecheck and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around much to the joy of Leafs’ fans.
From a statistical perspective, Steeves has tallied 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists) this season with the Marlies and has been one of their top players. His strong play also earned him a call-up with the Maple Leafs having appeared in three regular-season games thus far this season. It goes without saying that Toronto has been very impressed with his development as a player. That of course bodes extremely well for the club moving forward. Keep your eyes on Steeves, folks, this kid looks like a real diamond in the rough.
Topi Niemela, Defenseman, Age 20
Finnish-born defenseman Niemela rounds out our list of Toronto’s untouchable prospects. If you’re a fan of silky-smooth blue-liners, you’re going to want to feast your eyes on this guy, hockey fans. Born and raised in Oulu, Finland, Niemela has risen up the ranks and has quickly established himself as one of Toronto’s best (and most coveted) prospects.
When you watch Niemela play, a few things catch your eye. For one, he’s a strong skater with excellent edgework and an effortless stride. In addition, the 20-year-old sees the ice extremely well and loves to move the pick. This season with Karpat of the Finnish Liiga, Niemela has 32 points in 42 games. He’ll look real nice on Toronto’s blue-line alongside the likes of Rielly, Timothy Liljegren, T.J. Brodie, and Rasmus Sandin in the years to come.
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